There’s something about Antony & the Johnson’s, that when they come onto my Spotify station I start to feel a bit more raw and tender (and vulnerable). Not such a bad thing to happen, a strong reminder of the people that I care the most about:
Perhaps one hard lesson of the last few years of my life has been to learn to express uncomfortable feelings–the coping mechanism of so many years of suppressing sadness is hard to undo. But what I’ve realized is that I can tell when there’s something I need to express…because my left hand will be balled into a tight fist. Generally I don’t even know that I’m doing it, but I will look down and see the knuckles white and fingers tight and know that something is awry.
(It’s been interesting to peruse my photos from the last few years and to see how many of them include that tight fist in the frame.)
Today, I am finding my hand in a fist because of that hug that I gave my college-bound son at the side of my car just before he walked away with two suitcases in hand.* That moment recalled many similar hugs that I’ve given in the past. Hugs meant to hold on to someone who was leaving. To keep them close and safe, despite distance. To offer a memory for me to grasp on days when my hands are empty.
Making a Fist by Naomi Shihab Nye
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
*He’s not gone to college quite yet, but will be with his Dad for a few days until he leaves
A few years ago, whenever I was faced with a situation where I would typically insert deity into my thinking, I started inserting the ocean instead. It seems something worth worshiping (whereas God was no longer something I could worship) because it is vast and ineffable and powerful. I find it easier to surrender to the currents and ways of the sea than I do to anything else in my life right now, and find that time out on the water also seems to put everything into perspective.
Perhaps that’s why this song struck me so powerfully when it came onto my Pandora playlist recently…
And it’s peaceful in the deep,
Cathedral, you cannot breathe,
No need to pray, no need to speak
Now I am under.
And it’s breaking over me,
A thousand miles onto the sea bed,
Found the place to rest my head…
And the arms of the ocean are carrying me,
And all this devotion was rushing out of me,
And the crashes are heaven, for a sinner like me,
The arms of the ocean deliver me.
Though the pressure’s hard to take,
It’s the only way I can escape,
It seems a heavy choice to make,
Now I am under.
Honestly, I never would have thought that a comparison of the sea to a book could work quite this well. I’m reading this poem over and over and over again, and it’s pulling my thoughts towards finding a beach to pitch my tent this weekend… (note: more of Claire’s poetry can be found here).
by Claire Åkebrand
Midnight rain gusts against the tent’s drape.
What height might the already tall waves since noon
have reached. No light illuminates the felted seascape.
Just a dim glow of froth, and dune,
waves all ruffled up pages of a book
no one has entirely read. How the sea pines
for a reader. I hear her slinging her hooks.
No one walks the shallows at this hour. Her brine
would tow me quickly to her heart. What sea
creatures might gape for me there.
Drowsing off, I’m swallowed, and reeled
again and again by the wake and snared
to a place each human has been before
to find nothing but the sallow ocean floor.
I will confess, I haven’t listened to Regina Spektor in a long long time, having removed her from my playlists over a year ago (the songs reminded me too much of my ex, and I had one spectacularly awful breakdown-moment when “Samson” came on while I was on a date–egads, I didn’t need that reminder). But….”On the Radio” appeared on my Pandora playlist this morning and I found it as utterly delightful as the first time I heard it. Perhaps even more so, because I think I understand even better now what she means when she sings “you’ll just do it all again…”
This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath
No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again
*It’s interesting to me, too, that I first met this friend while at a Regina Spektor concert two years ago, and she’s been such an incredible support to me ever since… 🙂
Lately I’ve been falling in love with Marge Piercy’s poems all over again…
An excerpt from “The nuisance”
I am an inconvenient woman.
I’d be more useful as a pencil sharpener or a cash register.
I do not love you the way I love Mother Jones or the surf coming in
or my pussycats or a good piece of steak.
I love the sun prickly on the black stubble of your cheek.
I love you wandering floppy making scarecrows of despair.
I love when you are discussing changes in the class structure
and it jams my ears and burns in the tips of my fingers…
I love you with my arms and my legs
and my brains and my cunt and my unseemly history.
I want to tell you about when I was ten and it thundered.
I want you to kiss the crosshatched remains of my burn.
I want to read you poems about drowning myself
laid like eggs without shells at fifteen under Shelley’s wings
I want you to read my old loverletters.
I want you to want me
as directly and simply and variously
as a cup of hot coffee.
To want to, to have to, to miss what can’t have room to happen.
I carry my love for you
around with me like my teeth
and I am starving.